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Gray wolves: People will decide if they are to survive

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, April 29th, 2010 at 7:08 am in Wolves.

Gray wolf. Photo by Flickr user Fremlin used under a Creative Commons License.
wolf2 Fremlin

The latest issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management has a very interesting article on “Survival of Colonizing Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains of the United States, 1982-2004.” You care about wolves? Check it out. /Gary

Humans—both predators and protectors—will decide survival of gray wolves

The Journal of Wildlife Management – Survival of the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States depends not as much on the wolves as on people. Humans are both predators and protectors of this species, which has been reintroduced into parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Humans were responsible for eradicating gray wolves from this area by the 1930s. Annual survival was considered adequate to sustain the present population, but  killing, both legal and illegal, continues and should be monitored to ensure their survival.

Wolf pack. Photo by Flickr user Harlequeen used under a Creative Commons License.
wolf pack Harlequeen

The current issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management reports on mortality rates among these wolves since their reintroduction. The authors stress the role of continued wildlife management to ensure survival of the gray wolf, which was removed from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana in 2009.

The reestablishment of wolves began in 1979, when wolves began to enter northwest Montana from Canada; reproduction was first documented in 1986. In 1995 and 1996, wolves were introduced into central Idaho and the greater Yellowstone area in Wyoming. The wolf recovery goal calls for metapopulations in these three states of at least 30 breeding pairs and 300 wolves. The plan also includes establishing state-managed conservation programs and taking steps to minimize damage to livestock. It is legal for ranchers to shoot wolves that threaten their livestock.

The current study sought to assess biological, habitat, and anthropogenic factors contributing to wolf mortality and to indicate whether federal protection could ensure survival. Radio collars were placed on 711 wolves from 1982 to 2004. Of these wolves, 363 died, most from human causes. Montana, where less public land is available for wolf habitat, saw the highest level of mortality. However, the overall annual survival rate was found to be adequate to sustain the wolf population.

The authors offer three recommendations for management of the gray wolf population:

*** Increase survival of wolves in surrounding areas to increase survival in Montana. Emigration and retention of wolves in this area could increase with a denser surrounding wolf population. Conflict resolution and illegal mortality should also be addressed.

*** Continue to monitor survival rates. The study found a higher rate of mortality among wolves that were collared to track livestock conflicts compared with those collared for monitoring purposes only. Legal human harvest of wolves should also be monitored.

*** Establish regulations that allow wolves the opportunity to spread and overlap territories. This will help maintain connectivity and natural dispersal among the population locations.

Full text of the article, “Survival of Colonizing Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains of the United States, 1982–2004,” The Journal of Wildlife Management, Volume 74, Issue 4, 2010, is available at

About The Journal of Wildlife Management
The Journal of Wildlife Management, published since 1937, is one of the world’s leading scientific journals covering wildlife science, management, and conservation. The Wildlife Society publishes it eight times per year. To learn more about the society, please visit

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